Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Intercept -- Republican Lawmakers Buy Health Insurance Stocks As Repeal Effort Moves Forward

Political insider trading has been a problem for a long time. The practice of trading on the stock exchange to one's own advantage through having access to confidential market information, or from gaining government information --  “political intelligence” -- about legislation affecting markets, in some cases are illegal. Political insider trading should be illegal as well.

It gained national prominence during the confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. News reports showed he had bought shares in a tiny biotechnology company while sitting on committees that could influence the firm’s prospects. A colleague, Rep. Chris Collins, had tipped him off to the investment.

Now the Intercept reports, "Just as the House Republican bill to slash much of the Affordable Care Act moved forward, Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican and member of Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team, added a health insurance company to his portfolio.

"An account owned by Conaway’s wife made two purchases of UnitedHealth stock, worth as much as $30,000, on March 24th, the day the legislation advanced in the House Rules Committee, according to disclosures. The exact value of Conaway’s investment isn’t clear, given that congressional ethics forms only show a range of amounts, and Conaway’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

"It was a savvy move. Health industry stocks, including insurance giants like UnitedHealth, have surged as Republicans move forward with their repeal effort, which rolls back broad taxes on health care firms while loosening consumer regulations which prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for medical treatment. UnitedHealth has gained nearly 7 percent in value since March 24.

"He wasn’t the only one. As the health care system overhaul advanced last month on the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma purchased between $50,000 to $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock."

It’s one of the issues why Americans are fed up with our political system. Conflict of interest is a major concern when Congress and President Trump use their positions for personal gain.

By Lee Fang